If you have arthritis, you may have noticed that the weather can impact how your joints feel. In this blog, we’ll talk about why weather changes may have an effect on arthritic joints and some remedies to try at home to beat the pain.
Why cold weather worsens arthritis symptoms
Believe it or not, not everybody who has arthritis experiences increased pain with cold weather or weather changes. For this reason, scientists don't know the exact causes behind weather-related arthritis pain.
One theory is that changes in barometric pressure cause muscles, tendons, and tissues within the body to expand, putting additional pressure on bones and joints and causing increased pain. Another theory is that when the cartilage that normally protects bones is worn away, the nerves inside the bones that are left exposed are more sensitive to changes in pressure.
Managing arthritis pain at home
Managing arthritis pain is especially important because leaving it untreated can have a domino effect, causing you to be less mobile and then leading to worsened stiffness and less ability to be mobile. Soon, you may begin feeling isolated or even depressed.
Here are some steps you can take at home to prevent and treat arthritis pain.
Staying warm can help you prevent the pain that accompanies the cold. You can stay warm by turning the thermostat up a little or using a space heater; dressing in layers during colder months; taking a hot bath or shower; and using an electric blanket. Wearing socks and shoes in the house is a great way to stay warm, too.
Ask your doctor about over-the-counter medications
Ibuprofen and Tylenol are usually safe ways to help you manage arthritis pain, but it's important to talk to your doctor first to ensure these medications won't cause any problems before you begin taking them at home. Your primary care provider can help you choose the right medications, right doses, and right times of day to best manage your pain without interfering with any other medications you already take.
Try a paraffin bath
You can try a paraffin hand wax to warm your hands and ease the pain of arthritis. There are microwave kits and/or hand baths that you can buy and use safely at home. The benefit of paraffin is that it molds to your hands and dries there, giving you more time to absorb the warmth and enjoy the benefits.
Manage your weight
Losing weight can help dramatically.
Imagine just ten extra pounds of weight - that's the equivalent of 10 boxes of butter - pressing down on every joint with every step you take. Now imagine 20 pounds or 50 pounds! While we know how incredibly challenging it can be to lose weight, we also know that it can be incredibly effective in reducing the strain on your joints and subsequently, the pain of arthritis.
You can start small by following the "best odds" diet, which simply consists of choosing the healthiest option available to you for meals and snacks, and incorporating 30 minutes of activity into your day.
Stay active (even when it's hard)
Stay active, even when it's painful, to prevent worsening stiffness and pain. Getting up and doing the things you normally do - like washing dishes and getting dressed - is a great start, but a walk around the block or some stretching are even better. Know your limits; avoid lifting weights or pushing yourself too hard if you're having a flare-up.
Get plenty of sleep
Getting plenty of rest at night is one way you can keep your body healthy, and a healthy body is better equipped to battle illnesses and ailments. The primary reasons older adults have trouble sleeping at night include inactivity during the day and napping during the day. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise - even just walking - every single day can help you sleep better at night. Avoiding napping can help, too.
Nourish your body
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is another way you can prepare your body to fight disease including arthritis. Avoid foods that are heavily processed, and choose instead colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and plenty of water.
Avoid heavy lifting
If certain activities cause you more pain or stiffness, ask for help rather than doing them yourself, especially when the weather is cold. Putting away dishes in higher cabinets or lifting heavy boxes might be examples.
If you don't have time to read the whole article, here are the most important points:
- managing arthritis pain is key to managing your physical and mental well-being
- scientists don't yet know why arthritis pain is worse during colder months but they have a few theories
- you can manage pain at home by staying active, eating well, staying warm, getting enough rest, losing weight, and visiting with your doctor about over-the-counter medications